Monday, March 29, 2010

Not I, but Christ

Christians argue over what parts of the Bible to take literally. Passages like the seven days of creation, Noah's ark, and the miracles of Jesus come to mind. But before we argue over evolution, lets look at the crucifixion. It is much more central to the Christian faith.

"I have been crucified with Christ." The apostle Paul meant his words to be taken literally, but not historically. History tells us that Paul was not crucified with Jesus in Jerusalem. Caesar Nero beheaded Paul in Rome thirty years after Christ died on the cross. But Paul still meant those words literally. He reckoned himself dead when he penned those words.

Galatians 2:20 reads: "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." Another translation puts it even more starkly: "It is not I who live, but Christ lives in me."

If I take this literally, it means I no longer live. It would be much more comfortable to read this as a metaphor - the way some people interpret the resurrection of Jesus. But let's not be too quick to spiritualize our death. This may be just the ego's attempt to avoid the hard truth of our own demise. Let's take the verse literally and see where it leads.  

"It is not I who live." That means there is no "I." The self that I reckon myself to be is not I. I am not. Christ is. "It is not I who live, but Christ lives in me." Christ lives. That is the message of Easter.

Again, let's take the life of Christ in me literally and not figuratively. The risen Christ did not ascend to live on the planet Kolob, where the Mormon deity is said to dwell.  Christ lives in me. "You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart," as the Easter hymn says. I am not here, but Christ is. The life I live is Christ's life. This body of flesh and blood is Christ's body.

This type of radical rethinking of life can only be apprehended by faith - faith in the Christ who loved me and gave himself for me. He takes my place not only on the cross, but also presently in this body that I call me.

It is a lot to ponder. I feel a bit like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. But honestly, it rings more true to my experience than the myth of my self as an autonomous eternal ego. I no longer live. What a relief! No fear of death. No fear of life. Just the risen Christ living in me. Now that's something to celebrate at Easter!

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